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Repeated Suicide Threats Amounts Mental Cruelty, is valid Divorce Ground



Mrs.Sanjivani Bharat Sasane Verus Mr.Bharat Dashrath Sasane and ANR. on NOVEMBER 18, 2009

Mr.Amol Deshpande , Adv. For the appellant.
Mrs.Usha Purohit and Mr.Sidharth Ronghe, Adv. For the respondent.

Law Point:
Repeated Suicide Threats Amounts Mental Cruelty, is valid Divorce Ground


This is an Appeal filed against the order of the Family Court I, Pune, dated 22nd February, 2002 allowing the  Petition filed by the Respondent husband for divorce under section 13 (1) (ia)  of  the  Hindu  Marriage   Act,  1956,  on  the  ground  of  cruelty. The Respondent husband approached the Family Court under the aforesaid provision for divorce on the ground of   cruelty based mainly on account of the behaviour of the Appellant which included threats and attempts to commit suicide on various occasions and for gross misbehaviour with  him.

  1. The Family Court after considering the evidence came to the conclusion that the Appellant had treated the Respondent husband with cruelty and the Respondent was therefore entitled to decree of divorce. At the outset, it may  be  noted  that  the  Family Court in paragraph 17 has stated that several attempts  were made by the Appellant to stall the hearing of the case by not offering herself for cross­examination and that she made all attempts to prolong  the    When  the  Court  tried  to  prevent such attempts, she even moved a transfer petition. Apparently, in the past too, such transfer petitions had  been  moved by the Appellant in respect of the earlier Presiding Officer, which was rejected.   When we   expressed a desire to interview   the parties. The Respondent husband alone appeared  before  us and the Learned Counsel appearing for the Appellant  stated that  he has instructions to say that the Appellant is away at Rishikesh. The learned counsel for the Respondent stated  that  the Respondent husband had seen the Appellant in Pune the   previous day, i.e. on 17th November, 2009, and is  willing  to  file  an  affidavit. We did not consider it necessary to go into this controversy and prolong the hearing of this   case.
  1. The learned Family Court has decided the matter purely on merits. The learned Family court after considering the evidence on record came to the conclusion that the Appellant has repeatedly threatened suicide and in fact made it  embarrassing and dangerous for the  husband  to  cohabit  with  her    In fact, the Appellant in her written statement stated that she wanted “Kaydeshir Farkat” i.e. judicial separation. It is clear  that the Appellant does not wish to cohabit with the    Respondent.
  2. Coming to the findings, the  Family  Court  accepted  the Respondent’s case that the Appellant is unable to get along  with any person in the Respondent’s family. The learned  Trial Court has referred to the entire evidence of the Respondent wherein he has deposed about the attempts made by  the  Appellant to commit suicide and about her quarrelsome nature. Undoubtedly, the Appellant herself has admitted in paragraph 3    of   her   Written   Statement   that   on   4th   February,   1994 she attempted to commit suicide by jumping into the Mula River. In paragraph 14, she has clearly admitted that on that day, she climbed the bridge in order to jump, but was saved by passers­by. Further in paragraph 6 of the Written Statement,  she  has  admitted that in October, 1991 she consumed insecticide and as      a result was admitted to the Model Colony Hospital. She further admitted in paragraph 16 that she poured Kerosene on  herself with the intention to commit suicide, but she stopped short of setting herself alight for the future of the   daughter.
  1. In Naveen Kohli v. Neetu Kohli [(2006) 4 SCC 558], the Hon’ble Apex Court held that cruelty may be mental or physical and intentional or unintentional. The Court broadly defined ‘mental cruelty’ to be such conduct, which inflicts upon the other party such pain and suffering as would make it not possible for that party to live with the other. We have no hesitation in coming to the conclusion that the behaviour of the appellant in persistantly threatening and attempting suicide would constitute mental cruelty in law so as to become a ground for divorce. The threat  of  personal  violence  or  attempt  to  commit  suicide   is a    recognized   instance   of   cruelty    [  Dastane      Dastane ( AIR 1975 SC 1534]. Under the circumstances, it is not possible for a couple to peacefully carry on a married life, if one partner repeatedly threatens to commit suicide in public and within the home in this manner. In our view the Trial Court is therefore correct in its finding that the repeated attempts on the part of the Appellant to commit suicide constitutes mental   cruelty.
  1. We find that the Judgment of the learned Family Court also takes into account evidence of one Dr. Vidyadhar Watve (P.W.No.3), who is a Psychiatrist and one Dr. Subhash Kale, who gave evidence about the mental disorder, i.e. ‘adjustment disorder’ and of depression, which the Appellant suffers from. The learned counsel for the Appellant submitted that the ill treatment by the in­laws, led to the attempts to commit suicide, and therefore, since the fault lay with the Respondent’s family he was barred from pleading ‘cruelty’. It is not possible to accept this submission in the present case, since it appears that the attempts to commit suicide continued even after the couple moved to a new place and began to live separately from the family of the Respondent husband. The Trial  Court  has   observed   in   paragraph   20,   that in these circumstances, the Respondent has stated that sometimes, he may have behaved  in a manner which appears cruel to the Appellant, but this was   only to prevent her from committing suicide or to  prevent  her from causing any bodily injury to herself. There are instances where the Respondent had to physically prevent the Appellant  from committing suicide, such as when  she  attempted  to  consume insecticide in the bathroom,  in  October  1991.  In  fact, the learned Trial Judge has observed that even during the  Trial,  the behaviour of the Appellant was not normal and she often seemed to lose her mental  equilibrium.
  1. Learned Counsel for the Appellant also brought forth the contention that by indulging in physical relations with the Appellant after the alleged acts of cruelty, the Respondent had condoned these acts and was hence barred from a divorce decree by section 23 (1)(b) of the Hindu Marriage Act,    We  find that there is no merit in the argument. ‘Condonation’ means forgiveness for the offence and  restoration  of  the  offending spouse to the status quo ante [Dastane v. Dastane (supra)]. However, condonation is meaningless unless there  is  some  change  in  the  person  who  seeks  forgiveness  or  who  has    been forgiven. As rightly pointed out in Puthalath Chatu v. Nambukkudi Jayasree (AIR 1990 Ker  306), condonation rests on some assurance to the offended spouse, of retracement of the offending spouse, from the wrong path hitherto followed. In the present matter, even if the Respondent  did  have  physical  relations after the alleged acts of cruelty, there was no change in the attitude and behaviour of the Appellant, who continued even thereafter to threaten and attempt to commit suicide. This argument is hence  rejected.
  1. The parties have been living separately for a period of approximately 8 years before the filing of Petition and as the matter stands now, the passage of time is about 17 years since  they last resided together.   The attempts at reconciliation, prior    to commencement of divorce proceedings in  the  Trial  Court  failed and there does not appear to be a chance of any reconciliation at present, having regard to the facts and circumstances of the case. We have  considered  the  entire  evidence of the parties and the arguments advanced by the by the Learned Advocate  for  the parties  and we find that the  conclusion of the Trial Court regarding cruelty faced by the Respondent is    not liable to be interfered  with.
  1. The learned counsel for the Appellant submitted that the Appellant has been awarded maintenance of Rs.3,000/­ and that their daughter was initially awarded a maintenance of Rs. 2,000/­, but that has been  increased  to  5,000/­.  The  Appellant submits that the maintenance payable to the Appellant should also be increased.  Ms.  Purohit,  the  learned  counsel  for  the Respondent No. 1 states that the Respondent has also  deposited Rs.5 lakhs towards the marriage expenses of the daughter. We leave the question of enhancement of maintenance  to be agitated before the Family Court by adopting proper proceedings.
  2. The learned counsel for the Appellant also made an attempt to argue the question of succession by the daughter of    the property belonging to the Respondents, however, these proceedings are not appropriate for any decision on this
  3. In the result,  the  Appeal  is dismissed.  However,  there will be no order as to
  1. This being the view which we have taken, we do not consider it necessary to decide the Civil Application Stamp No. 26752 of 2008 and it is hence disposed of. The Civil Application No.329 of 2008 for injunction is also disposed

Order Accordingly.